For Carlos Bocanegra and Tim Howard, the 2003 Confederations Cup in France was more than just another round of games for the U.S. It was the first major tournament overseas for both of them and led to huge opportunities in their careers. Since the U.S. Men’s National Team is back in France, ussoccer.com asked Howard and Bocanegra about playing against some of the world’s best.
The U.S.’s group in the 2003 Confederations Cup consisted of Turkey, Brazil and Cameroon, arguably the toughest group in the competition. The U.S. lost 1-2 to Turkey, lost 0-1 to Brazil and had a scoreless tie against Cameroon. Despite not winning any games, Bocanegra and Howard were just happy to be included in the squad.
“It was my first major tournament, and I was really excited to play such high-level competition,” Howard said. “It was pretty special for me because it was a great introduction for what was to come for the rest of my career.”
Bocanegra echoed similar sentiments.
Bocanegra's first major tournament with the U.S. Men's National Team proved to be a career turning point
“I just remember feeling fortunate and lucky to have the chance to play with the National Team,” the defender said. “It was great training, day in and day out, against the best competition we have in our country. It kept me sharp, it kept me hungry, and I got a little taste of how it is over here in Europe.”
During the tournament, both players impressed clubs across Europe and signed contracts with Premier League teams shortly afterward. Bocanegra transferred to Fulham from the Chicago Fire, and Howard moved from the MetroStars to Manchester United. Bocanegra described the tournament as a huge turning point in his career.
“That was the tournament where Fulham came and watched me, and I was able to get the opportunity to go over to the Premiership after that,” he said. “It was just a huge opportunity, and I was lucky enough that I was able to be seen by some European coaches.”
Howard was voted English Premier League Goalkeeper of the Year after his first season with Man United and said participating in the Confederations Cup, where he was twice voted Man of the Match, was a great learning experience.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but I use experiences like that now to help me along on my career,” Howard said. “It was memorable for a lot of reasons. It was on the back of that that I made a move to Europe, so that was a pretty cool time for me as a professional.”
Both men are looking forward to tomorrow, when the U.S. plays France in Paris for the first time since 1979.